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Willie Colón / Press

“Every music biopic depends at least a little bit on a built-in familiarity and sympathy. We're already supposed to know a couple of things about Ray Charles or Johnny Cash or Mozart, and that's what's supposed to get us into the theater in the first place. And then our appreciation for these guys is supposed to deepen once we get some sense of their struggles and their contexts. Well, El Cantante isn't going to teach anyone about Hector Lavoe, and it isn't going to deepen anyone's appreciation either; I learned more about the man from spending ten minutes with his Wikipedia entry than I did by spending two hours with El Cantante this morning. The movie doesn't build on an already-extant affection for the man; it depends upon it entirely. The Lavoe of the movie is a total cold fish, an emotionless bumbler who barely even tries to keep his dangerous appetites in check and who seems singularly undevoted to craft or artistry. Maybe that's because Marc Anthony, who plays Lavoe, isn't an act”

“Willie Colón/Héctor Lavoe, Asalto Navideño, Vols. 1-2 (Fania) It's not two hours of "Feliz Navidad," wise guy. What you have here is two early-'70s albums so full of infectious salsa -- including hoards of percussion, blaring horns, and festive choruses -- that you'd feel out of place sitting down while listening to it. Featuring genre staple "La Murga" and the boisterous "Traigo La Salsa," and led by Lavoe's soaring vocals and cuatro master Yomo Toro, it's become a justifiable Latin-music classic that you can now call one of the best reissues of the year.”

“Ferrara's since exiled himself to Rome. Tamerlis died young. Most of the other actors here are still gigging (Willie Colón, the salsa musician playing a blade-happy sociopath in Vigilante, is a friend of the Bloomberg administration),”

“I almost broke my neck the other day, walking across the intersection of Third Avenue and 109th Street in Spanish Harlem—better known as El Barrio—to pick my daughter up from school. I whirled around at the sight of a man I thought didn't exist anymore in New York City. He was a local titere (a street tough), sauntering down the very same "Calle Luna, Calle Sol" that salsa legend Héctor Lavoe sang about on a song from friend and fellow icon Willie Colón's classic 1973 album, Lo Mato. The cautionary tale, sung in Spanish, warns the citizens of John Lindsay's New York to stay clear of the matóns (hoodlums) locking down the streets unless they're prepared to go fisticuffs, or worse. But here, in 2008, the older, weathered man—well into his fifties—strutted right past me rocking a beaded Puerto Rican flag necklace and matching T-shirt, carrying a shoddy boombox on his shoulder that blared yet another of Lavoe's many emblematic collaborations with Colón, "Che Che Colé," from it”

“What's predictable, yet still disappointing, about NY77 is how it ignores vital parts of the city's musical culture. New York salsa was a little past its peak but still an awesome force in 1977, its clave pulse and congas informing the rhythm science of hip-hop, disco and, later, post-punk. "Never before, including the period when the Cha-Cha-Cha was in vogue and Xavier Cugat had his own TV show, has Latin music been so popular," wrote Alfredo Lopez in a Voice feature that November. And indeed, it was New York's Fania Records, home to badass, ghetto-fabulous superstars like Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe (subject of Leon Ichaso's new biopic, El Cantante) that defined salsa worldwide.”

“In his first major campaign appearance as a candidate for Congress, the trombonist-singer Willie Colon barely shook hands. Instead he was grabbed, squeezed and kissed as he zigzagged up Fifth Avenue on June 12 in the Puerto Rican Day Parade, ambushed by grown women who hopped in excitement after touching him, bearhugged by men who shrieked "Willieeee! Ven aca!" ("Come here!").”

“Willie Colon's set at S.O.B.'s on Thursday night was neither forgettable nor especially exuberant; instead, it just cruised along functionally. Though Mr. Colon, who for the last 20 years has been pushing salsa in new directions, had the audience on its feet and shaking, the show never reached the cathartic levels of great dance music.”

“IF Lionel Richie or the Miami Sound Machine can have major pop hits with a hint of Latin flavor, then maybe one of salsa's top bandleaders, Willie Colon, can do the same. That seems to be the strategy behind the singer-trombonist's recent forays into pan-American pop, which cast him as a romantic tenor instead of an aggressive trombone soloist or an exhortatory salsa singer.”

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